Contributed by John Stechschulte
What’s a mile long, passes through two Baltimore universities, and features a Light Rail stop, the Lyric Opera House, and businesses and non-profits from book stores to the Baltimore Free School? Need a clue? Just a block away, you’ll find the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Penn Station, coffee shops, bars and restaurants. Still need more help? Also in the area are many row homes and apartment buildings, full of people who have chosen to live in this dense, walkable neighborhood.
One last clue: at the eastern end, it connects to the Guilford bike boulevard going north to Charles Village, and the Jones Falls Trail going south to downtown (via the new cycletrack) and north to Hampden. This intersection has had a 130% increase in cyclists in the past year.
If you guessed it’s an interstate highway, you are completely, utterly wrong! It’s Mount Royal Avenue! And yet, when Mount Royal recently came up for a complete redesign, the Department of Transportation treated it more like an interstate than the complete street it should be. They ignored the Complete Streets Bill (passed unanimously by the Baltimore City Council in late 2010) by eliminating bike lanes from the new streetscape design for Mount Royal. The Complete Streets Bill aims to encourage “walking, bicycling, and transit use while promoting safe and contiguous routes for all street users.”
With so much vibrant city life on and near Mount Royal, and with its eastern end anchored by some of Baltimore’s premier bicycle infrastructure, it is hard to understand why traffic engineers want to treat it as if it’s the interstate highway that runs just a few hundred feet to the north. Cars already have that interstate—the residents of Midtown-Belvedere and Bolton Hill, the students of UB and MICA, the many cyclists who already use Mount Royal, and those who want to use it but don’t feel safe deserve a few feet of road to call their own. Bike lanes on Mount Royal will help to build the contiguous bicycle network that Baltimore needs, and will calm traffic to make everyone safer—pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
Let the Baltimore City Council, Department of Transportation and the presidents of MICA and UB know that Mount Royal Avenue needs a complete design, including bike lanes by signing the petition. Make sure to comment if you’re a local business owner or if you’re associated with MICA or UB.